At a mere 23 years old, Gospel’s brightest and newest star, Jonathan McReynolds, has gone from making beats and singing in his dorm room, to becoming the most electrifying new artist to hit the charts this year!
With his brand new CD, “Life Music,” flying off the shelves, this young musical prodigy is wise beyond his years and it shows in his calm, yet self-reflective demeanor.
I recently sat down with Jonathan to find out how he got his start, what’s it like to be the new kid on the block and more!
When did you realize you wanted to do music as a career?
Honestly, I never saw myself as a singer. I actually hated singing. I started playing the drums when I was around six or seven and then around eight or nine, I started playing the piano and organ. By the time I was twelve, I was leading out in service. I didn’t really start singing until I was halfway through high school. I realized that girls liked it, so that made me want to sing more. In high school everyone’s searching for his or her identity, so I became the music guy. At the time, I wasn’t really thinking about Jesus or making it a career, it was just about getting the girls. It was just for fun then. It wasn’t until college, that I started taking music more serious.
How did you develop your skills as a producer?
It’s amazing how God plants little seeds and you have no idea how it’s going to play into the bigger picture of your life. But I went to one of the very few schools in the country that had a recording studio in it. That’s where I learned to use pro tools and got my training in production. Then in college a friend and I bought some studio equipment together and I would write and produce in my dorm room. That’s when I got serious about my writing. I wasn’t really writing with a definitive religious tone, it was just about my life and about being a Christian. My friends started to hear my music and they were like, “WOW!” I didn’t think what I was doing was such a big deal and then God turned it into something else.
What did you get your degree in?
I went to Columbia College in Chicago and I received my Bachelors of Music in May ’11, with an emphasis on contemporary, urban and popular music. It’s an all-inclusive degree that focused on music, performance, and production. It really developed me as singer and a performer, which has made all the difference. Going to college also allowed me to learn about other singers and genres and it made me a well-rounded musician and thinker. Although I grew up in church, in school I was able to learn about Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. So more than the degree itself, the 4-year college experience taught me so much and gave me a plethora of things to write about because of the culture shock.
What song are you most proud from your new CD?
Well my favorite song is my “Comin’ Out.” I’m really proud of that song because it was a real transparent moment for me, as most of my songs are. But this song in particular was really something that was written directly out of a bad day. I could really see my growth as a writer on this one.
What’s the best part of being only 23 and having a record deal?
Truthfully, it’s not always so great. I’ve had to grow up very fast. Even though I’m mature, I’m still looked at as the new kid in the gospel industry, which is an industry that typically skews older versus the R&B scene. But on the flip side of that, even though it gets extremely tiring flying from city to city, being on airplanes very early in the morning, living out of a suitcase, and singing so late at night, it’s very rewarding to see people touched by ministry, especially young men. Seeing young men my age being inspired and encouraged, means a lot to me. They see a genuine dude without all the extras and without all the flash and say, “I can do that too.” It’s like I’m helping make Christianity look cool. Because some people really relate God and Christianity to an old ball and chain, and it’s really not. I never understood why artists would always say, “It’s my fans that keep me going.” And now I get it! It’s a blessing and a huge burden for someone who is only 23 and just graduated from college. But, God doesn’t put more on us than we can bear and he made me for this, so I’m excited. But please watch what you pray for and get a healthy connection with God because it can be a lot.
What do you like to splurge on?
Well let me say this, I certainly ain’t rich, so I hope nobody misunderstands that. But I don’t really splurge on much. If I splurge on anything, it’s at the airport at the express spa. If I have time, that is where you’ll find me…getting a massage. I do like gadgets also. But for the most part, I like to be able to go out to eat and get a good meal and be pampered.
Do you have a girlfriend? Are you dating?
No I don’t have a girlfriend right now and I’m not dating. And I thank God for that because for the most part I’ve always had a girlfriend, but in this season I’m in right now, I’m happy I don’t.
What do qualities do you look for?
She has to be smart! I’m a big nerd, so she has to be able to hold my attention. She has to be saved, classy and have a great sense of humor. And I like girls who like a lot of different types of music, because I like a little bit of everything.
Are you spontaneous or a planner?
I plan to be spontaneous. I will setup a situation to be controlled, but it will allow me to be spontaneous within certain boundaries.
Is it feasible to remain a virgin and abstain from sex considering we live in an over sexualized society?
Yes it’s feasible because I know people who have done it. It’s definitely something to strive for. It is difficult though because the world doesn’t really applaud it. Unless you have a very close relationship with God or have a strong obligation to yourself or your church, it’s really hard. Because you don’t get a big reward at the end or at least you don’t feel like you do. I firmly believe whenever you have sex with someone, you leave a piece of yourself with them. And what you find as you get older, when you get married or find that one you are ready to marry, things are complicated because there are pieces of you scattered all over the place. And because of that it makes it hard to be faithful. And in many cases, people don’t have a true identity of themselves. It’s extremely difficult though and I understand that, but that’s how the devil wanted it to be. Not only do we have to deal with the obvious drawbacks like STD’s and pregnancy, but it can also damage you in the long run because you’re trying to be married but that piece of intimacy is lost. There is just a lot that goes into sex, even aside from the natural stuff we see; it’s a big spiritual thing too. Because the spiritual world is much more real, than the natural stuff we see. There is a definite scattering of your spiritual, mental, and emotional self when you have given yourself to so many different people.
Do you have siblings?
I have a sister who is actually 19 years older than me. So even though I’m not an only child, by the time I arrived, she was almost out of the house. But we are very close and she is a great person!
Where do you get your musical talent? Is your family musical?
My whole family is pretty musical. My uncle is a band teacher that has taught in high school and college and my mother is a singer. She was the first choir director and worship leader at our church.
If you could do a duet with one male artist and one female artist who would it be?
Well my favorite artist in the world is India Arie, so I would choose her. And James Morrison would be the other artist. He’s a great alternative rock singer. I don’t necessarily know or care for their spiritual stance all the time, but they are gifted artists.
How do you relax and unwind?
A perfect day for me is to watch ESPN and Comedy Central all day with my guitar nearby!